Friday, April 20, 2012

Tips for babysitters from a parent.

Parents the world over are desperate to find a good baby sitter, and our expectations are frighteningly low.  We are DESPERATE to get out of our house and socialize with other adults, so desperate we leave our precious children in the hands of naive, and sometimes frighteningly clueless teenage girls.

We have only been in the babysitting game for about three years, but in that short amount of time we've cycled through at least 10 babysitters and seen the good, the bad, and the ugly.  So in an attempt to educate the masses, preach to the choir, or at least get a few "AMEN!"s from my fellow moms, here are a few tips for babysitters.

1.  CALL ME if you have a question, even if it is not an emergency.  If you are not sure if what you are experiencing is worth calling about, CALL ME ANYWAY.  I promise, I do not want to rush home, nor do any of the parents I know, so if we can work it out with you on the phone, we will.  I will not think you are stupid or dumb or irresponsible for calling me.  The only dumb questions are the ones you don't ask.  You probably don't have children of your own, and if you do, you probably don't understand half of what's coming out of my 2 year old's mouth, so I promise to be understanding. 

2.  If it IS an emergency, keep trying to contact me until you reach me, even if it means using the phone number to the actual restaurant that I took the time to look up and leave for you in case of an emergency.  Do not send me a text, and assume if you don't hear back that everything is fine.  In fact, just don't ever send me a text. Ever. Because whatever activity led us to hire a baby sitter has very likely also led us to put our phones on vibrate, and while we will check our phone periodically, we probably don't have it sitting on the table.  So a phone call, which makes our phones vibrate 5-7 times, is superior to a text, which only makes them vibrate once.     

3.  Assume you are going to have to feed my children at some point. Bonus points if you can manage to feed them healthy food.  Also, if you are watching children during a meal time, please feed them that meal. Even though they may act like puppies, children are not animals that only get fed in the morning and at night.  Believe it or not, we feed them all 3 meal AND a morning and afternoon snack.  And if you are not sure of what (or when) to feed the kids, please ask me, not my kids.  

4. Spending more than 5 minutes with children means a mess will be made.  Please do your best to clean up this mess, particularly when spilled liquid is involved.    

5.  Only let children watch age appropriate material.  If you are unsure of what age appropriate is, please ask me, not my kids.  Or better yet, PLAY with the kids and don't turn the TV on at all.  

6.  Assume if you are watching young children past 8 or 9pm, that you will need to put them to bed.
Please put them in pj's and clean diapers before bed. If you are not sure of what else a bed time routine entails, please ask me, not the kids.   

7.  Do not let the children play with finger nail polish, finger nail polish remover, make up, sharp objects, food coloring, paint, markers, or anything else that will stain their clothes, mark the carpet, ruin my furniture, or cause them bodily harm. If you are not sure of what is ok to play with, and the GIANT playroom isn't providing you with any inspiration, please ask me, not the kids.

8.  I know that you raid the pantry and watch TV.  It's one of the perks of babysitting.  Just please do it after the kids are asleep.  I don't care if you eat my M&M's or watch South Park, but I kinda care if they do.

9.  Please do not ask to be my friend on facebook or twitter.  I'm not your friend, I'm your boss.  It doesn't mean that I don't like you, I promise.  It just means I'm trying to maintain an image of responsibility and the images of me on facebook may or may not always support that.

10.  Bring a note card with your name, address, phone number, age, parents' name(s) and contact info as well as an emergency contact (if not your parents).  Nope, I'm not kidding.  You'd be amazed how many babysitters give me strange "are-you-stalking-me?" looks when I ask for this basic info.  To all of those girls, I say the following: Seems crazy, I know, that you would need to provide all this info to your employer, but your employers will ALWAYS need this info, whether it's a job at McDonald's, Apple Computers, or my house.  See, your employer is responsible for your whereabouts, so while you are babysitting my kids, I'm pretty much babysitting you.   

11.  Know what you charge.  If you are not sure, do some googling because you will probably be asked at some point, and it is in your best interest to have an answer.  We pay our sitter $10/hour for 2 kids because that's what other parents told us to pay (not one sitter we ever asked had an answer).  But here's the thing, if our current sitter asked for $12/hour, we'd totally pay it.  Heck, we'd probably paid upwards of $20/hour we love her so much.  As it is, she never gave us a quote, so we keep it at the current rate.  Admittedly, we usually round up to the nearest multiple of $20, because we're almost always stopping by the ATM on our way home to pay her.  

12.  Babysitting is not a fluff job.  Our children mean more to us than you will ever know, more to us that anything you could possibly imagine, and taking care of them is a HUGE responsibility. After my first child was born, I immediately felt this intense sense of guilt over how lightly I took my baby sitting jobs.  Don't misunderstand me, I was not a bad babysitter, in fact, I was a pretty darn awesome baby sitter, but I had no idea how HUGE of a responsibility it was, until I had a child of my own.  So whatever you do, please please PLEASE keep my children safe.      

I know as parents, we are not always the easiest employers, but a good baby sitter is worth her weight in gold.  If you can manage the above items, I promise you'll never want for babysitting'll be fought over and your name will passed around and whispered reverently between moms the world over.   

Stay tuned...this post most definitely deserves a counter-part entitled "Tips for parents from a babysitter" because I know from experience, for every clueless babysitter, there are probably ten clueless parents.

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